Madonna of the Streets

By Sr. Mary Frances Reis, VHM

From the archives: Sister Jean and a community of friends at one of our first Christmas Liturgies in the 'Hood. The presider, Father Greg Tolaas, has also gone home to God.

From the Vis archives: Sister Jean and a community of friends at one of our first Christmas Liturgies in the ‘Hood. The presider, Father Greg Tolaas, has also gone home to God.

We first met Sister Jean Thuerauf in August 1989 at her first Cookie Cart Bakery she started in North Minneapolis. “If you are moving to North Minneapolis you need to meet Sister Jean,” advised our friend, Dick Rice. As we walked into the un- air-conditioned bakery that 90+ degree day, Sister Jean exclaimed, “Welcome, you’re here!!! I have been praying for 3 years that God would send a community of Sisters with whom I could pray. You’re here!!!” We had never met Sister Jean, nor she us. Thus began as 27 years relationship; she introduced us to the ‘Hood and we shared our life of prayer and community with her. Confirmation of the Holy Spirit on both sides!

“Welcome! You’re here!!! I have been praying for 3 years that God would send a community of Sisters with whom I could pray. You’re here!” – Sister Jean

Sister Jean, the “Mother Theresa of the Northside,” completed her earthly mission on the Northside on June 10, 2016, but her presence is felt and the miracles she lived by keep happening. Here’s one of them:

We had received word that Sr.Jean was dying the morning of her passing. That very day, at 12:00 noon, three men were in our chapel where we were anointing and blessing them for the work they were about to begin: meeting young teens affiliated with gangs on our streets, usually armed, and offering them friendship, love and jobs. When we shared the news of Sr. Jean’s imminent passing, the tears flowed. You see, these were Sister Jean’s 1st Cookie Cart kids.

(Desmond, Jimmy and Thomas had helped paint the first Cookie Cart — an actual cart built by a friend; baked cookies with Sr. Jean at her home, rolled the cart around the neighborhood, sold the freshly baked cookies @ $1.00 per 7, and earned enough money-$5,000- to help her open her first ‘real’ bakery on Emerson Avenue North.)

Upon hearing that Sister Jean was dying, the men accepted our invitation to take them over to Catholic Eldercare to thank her, before she breathed her last, for caring more about them than anyone they had ever known. We arrived an hour too late, but we did go up to her room and give our condolences to her nieces as they packed away the few belongings she possessed in a few brown paper sacks. Among these was Sister Jean’s ‘Star’ (a meteor that had fallen from the sky) that she had shown these kids many times, reminding them that we are all made of star dust.

These men had experienced the unconditional love of Sr. Jean, as did hundreds of Northsiders who met her on the streets, welcomed her into their homes, and, yes, baked those delicious cookies.

As one of the ‘Originals’ shared a prayer, one thing was certain. These men had experienced the unconditional love of Sr. Jean, as did hundreds of Northsiders who met her on the streets, welcomed her into their homes, and, yes, baked those delicious cookies.

desmond and thomas

Desmond and Thomas were among the first Cookie Cart kids. They are pictured here at Jimmy’s funeral.

The following week, Jimmy, Desmond, Willie and Thomas came to Sr. Jean’s wake, reminisced with her family and friends, and searched through photo albums to find their pictures and treasure Sacred ‘Sr. Jean’ Stories. “That’s the day she gave us all bikes!” “ That’s the day she gave me a birthday gift”….and on and on. There was energy throughout the Church that evening-an energy born of the LOVE Sr. Jean had for each of these kids and many like them- now 40+ years old. We re-lived it with them and praised the God Who was/is her first Love.

There is both a poignant conclusion to this short tribute to Sr.Jean. The day after her funeral, Jimmy died suddenly and tragically. Many questions surround his passing, but there is no doubt in my mind that Jimmy was welcomed into the Kingdom with unconditional love by Sister Jean. She cherished her Cookie Cart kids. May she and Jimmy know the full embrace of our Loving and Compassionate God.

Bridging Diversity & Abundance: Mutual Gifts Mendota Heights Visitation (1873) and North Minneapolis Visitation (1989)

Vis Seniors with some of our northside friends from Emerge and From Death to Life

Bridging Communities: Vis Seniors, Sisters, our VIP with some of our northside friends from “Emerge” and “From Death to Life”.

by S. Mary Frances Reis, VHM*

North Minneapolis is a culturally diverse and spiritually rich part of the metro area; it is home to the second Visitation Monastery in Minnesota founded in 1989.  The Salesian heritage of inclusivity and diversity which four Sisters brought here 25 years ago complements and affirms what is already present.  Perhaps that is why we were so warmly welcomed when we came to make this neighborhood our home.

Over the years, Mendota Visitation students and their families, faculty and staff, have made a bridge to our monastery, building relationships and performing various outreach services with our neighbors.  Not only do they bring hope to our families, especially at holiday times; they bring themselves and are eager to enter into relationship with our neighbors.  They help make our spirituality thrive here, carrying Salesian values of gentlenessnonviolencecommunity and presence.  In turn, our neighbors share inclusivity and diversity with them.

The highlight of this bridging happens in the spring each year when eight Visitation Seniors come to live here for two weeks of immersion and service.  Every agency where they serve wants them back the next year!

St. Francis de Sales often used images from creation to illustrate the concepts he was emphasizing.

Image from “Grimm’s Gardens.”

In his greatest work, the Treatise on the Love of God, he describes the diversity of the Church, that is, the People of God:

“The church is a garden with countless flowers It is necessary that they should be of various sizes, various colors, various scents and to sum up, various perfections.  All of them have their value, their charm, and their color, and in the assemblage of their differences all of them produce a beauty most pleasing and perfect.“

When we left our home monasteries in Mendota Heights and St. Louis to begin a new Visitation in north Minneapolis, we did not leave those who have for those who have not, but rather to build a Bridge between people who may not otherwise meet.    The results have been astounding!  We have all discovered that we have more in common than we have differences.  Together we form a beautiful garden enhanced by its diversity and inclusivity!  Surely that is the Spirit of the Visitation! 

 

 

 *Sister Mary Frances Reis is a founding member of the Visitation Monastery of Minneapolis.

What are you being invited to be for the world?

by Guest Blogger Tom Klein,*  “Following the Spirit” Discernment Series Participant

“What is there for me to do, give, share, be open to, receive, …  What is possible, what would Jesus ask of me?” — Tom Klein

Tom Klein, FTS Discerner 2012

Tom Klein, FTS Discerner 2012

I believe if we live a faith-filled life we are to have a sense of boldness on behalf of the gospel and all God’s people, we will act as if people have something to offer, we encourage people to consider from where they live, in this chapter of their life – what is there for me to do, give, share, be open to, receive, …  what is possible, what would Jesus ask of me?

Some people search their whole life for the answer to the question: ‘what is the meaning of life?’ Alfred Adler- the psychologist who brought pro-social values to psychology – had the meaning of life edited down to a single word: CONTRIBUTION. I believe that every single person, irrespective of life circumstances, can do something, can be a life-giving presence in the circles they travel in … no matter what is going on. — Tom Klein

People can get in a pickle because they give too much, give to get, give for the wrong reasons, give to impress, give reluctantly, … and conversely people can withhold or not give because they have never been asked, never paused, never got connected to a person or cause bigger than their own life.

Perhaps part of the meaning of life is truly about making one’s contribution, with good intentions, no strings attached.

Maybe, just maybe, by inviting people to go deeper, to find who they are and what they want to or can share in this chapter of their life you are helping them to find a niche to contribute that fits for them today.

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Tom with fellow FTS Discerners, Spring 2012

Tom with fellow FTS Discerners, Spring 2012

*About the Author:

Thomas Klein is a Spring 2012 Following the Spirit discernment participant who comes to us through two primary connections:
1) getting related to the Visitation Sisters during his board development work with the Cookie Cart, a North Side non-profit offering youth a formative initial work experience and

2) an ongoing Men’s Spirituality group grounded in Fr. Richard Rohr’s cross cultural studies of Men’s Rites of Passage (How cultures initiate boys to become men, what happens if they are not initiated, …)

and How Jesus invites us to be REAL (living from our deepest True Self with no one to impress, squarely facing the pain in our lives until it transforms us – and offering each of us new possibilities to be free, be present, be love AND be in solidarity with all God’s people).